It’s another beautiful day in Cambridge. I woke early and meditated and did a home yoga practice.
Later, I looked at the news: In the wake of more shootings of unarmed black men, and a Presidential candidate—Trump— who says in response that “maybe” officers who “choke” in their job (i.e. murder people) should be doing something else, I’ve been thinking again about violence, our responses to violence, and about how important it is to stay centered, whole and engaged and working towards positive change.
This past weekend I went to New Hampshire to canvass for Hillary Clinton.
It was a good experience and eye opening.
We were supposed to be talking to Hillary supporters, but most of the people we talked to turned out to be undecided. They wanted change, and Trump, for that reason, seemed appealing.
It was a beautiful day like today: a blue sky and still quite warm for September. Many of the people we talked to were quite friendly. They were self respecting people who were happy to talk. They had their own opinions. They cared about their families, their neighbors. They wanted to live a good life. In many ways, it was a pleasant day.
But when I got home, I was exhausted.
I was tired not only because I had been on my feet for much of the day, but also because I was emotionally tired. I’ve seen images of the Trump rallies and know what violence and hatred Trump is unleashing. I’ve seen the way he manipulates the media with lies. I’ve heard his hate, and have read his platform, whose policies would make the world a more dangerous, unequal, environmentally devastated place.
I’m scared of what a Trump presidency would look like and what Trump would enable both home and abroad.
I also felt sad, because I know that good people can do bad things, and it seemed sad that from so much that is positive, we can create so much negativity.
But I also know that a good system can bring out the best in people, so while I came home feeling tired, I also committed to doing more and asking my friends to do more in these next few weeks.It really is up to us to take responsibility for the direction we want to see our country go and the message we want to send both at home and abroad, and this is such a pivotal moment!
That said, I also came home wondering both how I can step up my own engagement in the next eight weeks and how doing what I’m already doing can make a difference and be worthwhile in a world potentially on the brink of yet more violence and hatred and divisiveness.
I found myself asking the question that I’ve often asked: what is an appropriate response? What is enough? Am I living in sync with the requirements and challenges of our contemporary world? Am I doing the right work?
I’ve felt these questions acutely a few times before in times of big potential change (elections, the run up to the war, when global environmental decisions are about to be made).
But if I’m honest, to some extent I live with that question all the time: we know that there is the threat of violence all the time; we know that there is violence and injustice all the time; that dozens of species are going extinct every single day.
In the face of this, what can we do?
I sometimes worry that when I talk about these things, I’m just being a downer, farther depressing people who are already stressed out. And I don’t want to play that role. I want to be a force of positivity and healing in the world. But deep down I also believe that our positivity and healing, for it to be real and effective, cannot come from denial, from turning away. Instead it comes from looking with wide open eyes at our whole world. True transformation comes from a state of awareness; from being able to find and act from our own balanced center even in that state of awareness and to choose to be open to sorrow and happiness, anger and wonder.
Finding a strong center and voice in a state of awareness is what I hope to do through my writing and spiritual practices, and it is what I help my students and clients do in their writing, their practices and their lives.
We need to learn to quiet, to calm down, to come out of a state of horror, to find our centers and our voices.
This is a life-long practice. It’s never finished, and life will continue to throw curves so that it’s a practice we need to return to again and again.
But when we do not do this, when we don’t know how to come into a state of quiet or center, and when we suppress our voices, we lose ourselves.
And yet, these essential tools are ones that almost none of us have been taught. So perhaps it is no surprise that the world is so often out of balance, that voters can’t really quite see what is in front of their own eyes, that messages of fear lead to acts of violence.
When I reflect in this way, it seems to me that the work I do, helping others stay find their own path to say centered and to speak from their true selves and visions is necessary work. It might not change the world overnight, but if each of us can be the change we want to see in the world, we will have a better world.
And while none of us alone can change the world, each of us can work to make ourselves as whole as possible, and give voice to our unique vision with conviction and clarity and even joy.
Please reach out to me if you’d like to get more engaged and want some guidance about how to do that. I’m happy to try to hook people up with volunteer opportunities, share my experiences, etc.
And please, also, reach out to me if you have other ideas about how to stay engaged and what else I can be doing–I think it’s so important to build community and to work together.